In a couple of hours, my train pulls in to the station in Tampa, Florida for the annual AWP conference. Really, I made the trip from New Jersey on the rails! (Since I'm writing and scheduling this post four days in advance, I won't know if that idea was brilliant or demented, so check with me later..)
Meanwhile, onward...to the wonderfully ginormous, teeming, swirling controlled chaos that is AWP. What? You think 14,000 writers (and editors, publishers, writing teachers, etc.) descending on an enormous conference center and a slew of hotels is calm and orderly? That 500+ breakout sessions, a few dozen of readings and gatherings, a dozen or so keynotes and special appearances and talks and on-stage interviews, are easy to navigate? Throw in a three-football-field sized bookfair, after-hours and off-site readings and parties (sorry, sponsored meet-ups), biz dinners and lunches and breakfasts, and you've got AWP.
Which I must say, actually is remarkably organized and orderly for all its girth. And also, unruly.
But hey, Florida instead of NJ in March? I'm there. Or here, by now.
Like last year, I'm here to learn, to listen, to meet up with my far-flung but fiercely valued writer friends I only see once a year (or every few years). To absorb it all, make new writer-world friends, take it all in. To ogle and soak up the wisdom of writer idols (and not be shocked when they get drunk at the after party, no not me), to dream and plan and set some new goals.
While I've marked up the program in a nifty app so I won't miss my must-see sessions, I'm also reserving--as I also did probably for the first time last year--my personal right to follow my nose and not fulfill an agenda. That worked out remarkably well in 2017, so hey, why not!
Officially, I do have a few places to be, things to do at AWP this year:
Three literary journals, which have published my work (Sweet and Under the Gum Tree in the past; Tiferet in a forthcoming issue), are hosting me to sign and give away ARC's (advance reading copies) of Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter's Memoir of Love after Loss (coming May 1 from University of Nevada Press). Even if the books run out, I'd still love to chat with any interested folks who stop by (and there may be some book swag on hand too).
You can find me here, in the sprawling bookfair:
Sweet Literary Journal (Thursday, 3/8, 3:00 - 4:00, Table 1109)
Under the Gum Tree (Friday, 3/9, 3:30 - 5:00, Table T1732)
Tiferet Journal (Saturday, 3/10, 11:00 am - noon, Table T1939)
(Here's a floor map of the bookfair layout, in case you like looking at things that make you dizzy.)
And, for something completely different, I'll be reading with contributors to the forthcoming anthology, Flash Nonfiction Funny: 71 Very Humorous, Very True, Very Short Stories, at the Tampa Marriott Waterside (host hotel), Meeting Room 13, 6:30 - 8:00 pm.on Thurs, 3/8. I don't often get funny on the page, and this short piece might surprise (shock?) some folks. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
Perhaps we'll run into one another. I love whenever I can connect with blog readers; though given the size and scope of AWP, I may just have to wave from here.
Which reminds me, I'll be back here next week (or soon, anyway), sharing some of what I learned and observed. And if I know myself, while there I'll be offering this space to other authors with just-published books, writers with something compelling to say, who I think you may like to hear from in future guest posts or Q/A's. Stay tuned.